I know you have been waiting and wondering for a whole week about what the next series will be! Well, time has come to unveil the mystery and introduce.. the Greek Series!
Located in the Mediterranean area, Greece’s traditional cuisine was very much influenced in history by the Romans, thus is very similar to other Mediterranean cuisines, such as Italian and Turkish. Olives, eggplants, zucchini, herbs, grains, fish, poultry, olive oil and wine are the main and most recurrent ingredients. The use of honey, nuts and phyllo pastry are characteristic of Greek cuisine. And it’s on these ingredients that we are focusing our attention this week: phyllo pastry, chopped nuts and honey are in fact combined together in a sweet dish called Baklava.
The word Baklava seelms to be of either Turkish or Persian origin. The origin of the word is still unclear, but it most likely means “to tie, to wrap up”. And it’s inTurkey that the dish Baklava seems to have originated, although many documentations date it back to the ancient Mesopotamia. There are different versions of dishes similar to Baklava throughout Iran, Afghanistan, Cyprus, Armenia, Syria and India. If you remember our past blogs, you might remember the Italian Torta Salata, which is not too much different either! Gastrin, made with nuts, seeds and pepper between two sheets of dough was the ancient version of Baklava as known in the island of Crete.
Baklava is a deliciously flaky and sweet dish, where phyllo alternates in layers and gives a crunch to this unbelievable crunchy treat. Used either in weddings or as Easter treat with 40 layers of phyllo (yes, the preparation of Baklava differs from region to region!), we are sure that you’ll enjoy it anytime of the year!
Ingredients (serves 24):
For the filling:
1 lb. of chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, or pistachios are best, or use a combination of them)
1 lb of phyllo dough
1/3 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/3 teaspoon of ground cloves
For the syrup:
1 cup of water
1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of honey
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 cinnamon stick
Finely ground pistachios for garnish (optional)
Warm up the oven to 350 F.
Take the thawed phyllo and cut it in half to fit in a 9×13 pan that you have previously greased with olive oil. While preparing the filling keep the phyllo covered with a damp towel so it won’t dry out.
In a food processor put the nuts, sugar, cinnamon and cloves.
Place the first sheet of phyllo into the pan and spread some olive oil on top of it. Place 7 more and brush some olive oil on top of each sheet. Spoon on a thin layer of the nut mixture, on top of which you’ll put two sheets of phyllo, and repeat until you finish the filling. Make sure that the last layer is 8 sheets of phyllo, each one greased with some olive oil on top.
Use a sharp knife to cut 24 squares, and bake for 30-35 minutes until slightly crispy.
While baking, prepare the syrup by combining cinnamon, sugar, lemon juice, honey and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to medium low heat and let it simmer for 7 minutes. The syrup needs to be a little thick. Remove the cinnamon stick and let it cool.
Sppon the syrup on top of the Baklava and let it cool for 4 hours. Garnish with some nuts or crushed pistachios.
Image by David Loftus Limited